Video: Three Tips for Effective Meetings
It was another long afternoon meeting during a time of organizational uncertainty. I can still remember one of my middle management colleagues. I will call him Jim.
Jim looked exasperated as our senior executive and his key reports visited and revisited every point that had been made in countless meetings before. Jim looked as if he was dying a slow, agonizing death!
It would not have been so bad if the meetings were infrequent. The problem was this organization loved to meet and few of the senior managers actually knew how to conduct a meeting (including our executive). Worse, the senior managers who ran poor meetings were not open to suggestion or influence for improving their meeting facilitation skills (including our executive).
For the group of us who were middle and lower level managers, we became captives at project meetings, planning meetings, multi-day retreats, monthly management meetings, cross functional task force meetings, special committee meetings, and so on. We met so much that the word meeting became a fighting word.
We did not want to attend our management meetings, and when we were in them --- we just wanted them to end. Time is money and we wondered then why we were wasting both to continually beat dead horses.
Later, we learned that the many meetings our senior executive was holding were done to show the new, incoming President that our organizational function was a productive part of the enterprise. We were frustrated to learn that the many meetings we attended were not held to make needed change in the organization (as we had been told).
All of our recommendations and plans were "shelved for later consideration." In fact, important changes never occurred. Naturally, this harmed our morale and generated cynicism. The unintended consequence for him was that many of us viewed his later meetings and retreats with suspicion. The best way to say how we felt is that we had little motivation to either attend his meetings or help him with his future pet projects.
Ineffective meetings are a major time drain. They can also harm leadership credibility. To avoid the frustration that "Jim" and all of us felt, here's my list of seven reasons when you should NOT have another management meeting:
1. When there is another, unexpressed political motive for the meeting.
(Eventually everyone will figure out the true reason for the meeting and they will resent the misuse of their time and their overall feeling of being used. Deal with the politics outside of the meeting as appropriate. Misrepresenting a meeting hurts a manager's credibility.)
2. When a tough but necessary decision needs to be made.
(Not all decisions can be made by a committee. Every organization needs managers and senior leaders who are willing to make tough decisions when they are necessary. Hiding behind meetings to discuss the issue further is ineffective and hurts productivity and morale. Make the tough decision in a humane way. Most people will appreciate you for it! )
3. When the purpose of the meeting is unclear.
(Having a meeting to figure out the purpose for a meeting is inefficient. Also, if the manager calling the meeting is unclear of the purpose for the meeting, the participants will be just as unclear. Define the purpose first and then meet.)
4. When too many meetings have occurred!
(Give it a break! Team members began to feel burned out and frustrated and meeting further becomes unproductive. Find ways to improve meetings. Ask for input from team members on strategies to improve the meetings. Give them a role in the meetings so they have some ownership.)
5. When the issue involves only a few individuals.
(Unless there is a compelling circumstance, calling a larger meeting to deal with issues that only involve a few individuals frequently creates more problems than it solves. The larger group of individuals that are not a part of the problem question why they are there. The few individuals who know that they are the focus of the manager's remarks resent being humiliated in public. Instead, meet separately with the few individuals to resolve the issue privately with them.)
6. When The Issue Has Already Been Fully Discussed.
(There's no need to meet again to rehash what has already been said. If no decision will be made, it is best to be upfront about it. Let your team know that you have heard them and explain as much as you can about the reason for your deferring taking any action. The risk of undermining your credibility is great if you pretend that further meetings will lead to some resolution. They will start to feel like Jim after awhile!)
7. When The Timing is Bad.
(King Solomon in his wisdom said there is a time and season for all things. We popularly say that timing is everything. Dealing with an issue when emotions are heightened and feelings are raw and exposed often brings undesirable organizational and people results. It often leads to unwanted organizational turnover and unproductive organizational conflict. Let everyone calm down and meet when cooler heads prevail.)
Meetings can be a critical tool for effective management. Effective meetings can improve communication, facilitate better decision making, and promote teamwork and employee motivation. Ineffective meetings however can kill all of these benefits and cause frustrated employees to say: Please not another meeting!